Unemployment rate in Australia ticks up to 6.9%

October 17, 2020

Australia’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 6.9 percent in September, as the coronavirus kept the brakes on hopes of a speedy economic recovery.
The country’s statistical agency said Thursday that unemployment grew 0.1 percent from 6.8 percent in August, with around 20,000 more people leaving the workforce entirely.
Australia -- with a population of 25 million -- is experiencing its first recession in almost 30 years.
The latest unemployment figures were slightly better than forecasts of 7 percent, but underlying figures suggest enduring economic pain.
The number of hours worked fell most notably in Victoria state, where the country’s second-biggest city Melbourne remains under a months-long virus lockdown.
Almost one million Australians have lost their jobs and many more have been forced to take pay cuts or seen hours slashed.
The government and central bank have embarked on a vast stimulus spending programme to avert a full-blown depression, putting the country on track to post a record budget deficit of Aus$213.7 billion ($152.7 billion) this year.
Last week, the government announced billions in tax cuts, with plans to bring forward reductions in income tax, offer new breaks to businesses and subsidise jobs for young workers.
By 2024, overall gross debt is predicted to rise to over one trillion Australian dollars, or around half of the country’s GDP, versus roughly a quarter in this year.
In further measures aimed at supporting the coronavirus-buffeted economy, the Reserve Bank of Australia has signalled it could cut record low interest rates of 0.25 percent even further when it next meets in early November.
Chinese customers are deferring Australian coal imports
Australian mining giant BHP has confirmed that Chinese customers have asked for deferrals of their coal orders amid reports Beijing had told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop importing Australian coal.
Speaking after BHP’s annual general meeting Wednesday evening, company chairman Ken MacKenzie said they had recently received deferment requests and were working with customers in China “to understand the situation more comprehensively.” “We understand there may be some new developments relating to how China plans and moderates imports versus their own domestic coal production,” MacKenzie told reporters, as cited by local media.
Earlier in the week, the Australian government said it was seeking reassurance from Beijing after industry news services cited several unnamed sources claiming the state-owned mills were given verbal notice to stop importing Australian thermal and coking coal with “immediate effect.” “It would be concerning if the rumours are true regarding an import restriction for Australian coal into China,” MacKenzie said. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday brushed off concern of a total ban, saying the reports were more likely linked to coal import limits.


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